Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Doheny meat scandal - a story of betrayal by those who were respected & trusted

This describes all the disturbing details regarding the recent meat scandal in Los Angels prior to the store being sold. The article clearly indicates that perhaps the greatest problem is the alleged betrayal of the community by someone who was highly respected and trusted for years as  well as the failure of the kashrus supervision to aggressively follow up on rumors of wrong doing.


Jewish Journal    On Thursday, March 7, at 6:10 a.m., a van and an SUV sit in adjacent parking spaces, in the lot of a McDonald’s near the junction of the 101 and the 405 freeways, their rear lift-gates open. 

Mike Engelman, the driver of the SUV, with the help of the driver of the van, loads something into the back of the SUV. Then Engelman, who owns Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market, one of Los Angeles’ largest distributors of kosher animal products, drives off, headed to Pico-Robertson to open his shop. 

Almost exactly one hour later, in the parking lot behind Doheny Meats, the mashgiach (rabbinic overseer) from the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC), who had unlocked the doors to the store and the distribution center just 10 minutes earlier, is nowhere in sight.  Engelman signals to an employee to unload the SUV. The employee takes out eight boxes, hundreds of pounds of unidentified meat or poultry, and wheels them into the store through its rear door.

This entire sequence was captured on video by a private investigator, and on Sunday afternoon, March 24, Rabbi Meyer H. May, president of the RCC, watched the video in horror. What he saw wasn’t just Engelman undermining the supervision of his agency; he also saw the rabbinic supervisor, who is never supposed to leave the premises, break with RCC protocol. [...]

The once-beloved butcher

Mike Engelman used to be known as the butcher with the highest-quality kosher meat and poultry in Pico-Robertson. His store is located within a 10-minute walk of four major kosher markets, and Doheny Meats serves as both a supplier and a stand-alone shop that carries animal products — including rare meats like bison and elk — and little else. The  employees’ white hats and aprons, the sparkling white display case, the thick white paper in which cuts of meat are wrapped — the entire shopping experience there feels like a throwback to a time when most people knew their butchers by name.

Which is what it was: Doheny has been around for more than 50 years, and Engelman made good service a selling point. Whole chickens bought from Doheny, for instance, were passed through an open flame to singe any stray feathers off of the skin. Doheny delivered its products locally, but also drew customers from other cities. At one point in the early 1990s, Doheny was making monthly deliveries to a synagogue in the South Bay and, according to the store’s Web site, which, as of April 1, had been taken down, Doheny had scheduled a delivery to a buying club in San Diego in March and was set to make similar shipments to the San Francisco Bay Area as well.

It was Engelman’s success on the distribution side — selling to caterers, markets, restaurants and hotels, including luxury venues like the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, which made up the majority of the volume of his business — that raised suspicions. [...]

6 comments :

  1. Recipients and PublicityApril 10, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Mike Engelman can now set up a new career and business supplying Berland's cronies flying in to Marakesh in Morocco who will need food and an expert who knows how to ship it.

    Treif chickens with a treif hashgocha for a treifa rebbe with a treifa hashkofa. Shabtai Tzvi with his krumme "toras ha'atzilus" actually said it's ok to eat treif and made a special "brochah" for it, or "...permitting the forbidden" !

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  2. I agree with R&P's condemnation of Engelman and Berland. But the picture isn't complete without the enablers added to the cast of his farce. Where are the folks who made Doheny's Engelman and Berland able to pull off their crimes. Doheney's crimes in LA are now history but the RCC continues on in the hechsher business. I don't understand why no one in that agency has been forced to resign. Of course the RCC is composed of Rabbis by Rabbis for Rabbis whose income stream will endure.

    You can be sure the RCC culprits will not relocate to Morocco. That is the real problem. Ditto for Berland's enablers.

    BTW, I hear that Berland stopped off on Switzerland on his way to Morocco. I am going to guess he went to do a bank withdrawal.

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  3. This whole episode could have been avoided had the RCC performed a due diligence background check. Had the background check been done, Mike Engleman never would have been given supervision for his second store. Here is the critical excerpt from the article:

    "In 1983, Rabbi Pinchas Gruman was the chair of the RCC’s kashrut committee. On Nov. 3 of that year, acting on a tip, Gruman drove to Orange County to visit Los Alamitos Kosher Meats and Poultry, where he found some kosher meat and poultry in the freezer placed alongside non-kosher animal products. In an interview this week, on March 31, Gruman alleged that Engelman was the person who opened the freezer for him that day.

    "It is not clear what Engelman’s job was at the shop — reached on Sunday, March 31, he had no comment. Engelman was not the sole owner of the Orange County shop, nevertheless, he was the only person Gruman said he saw on the day he made the visit.

    “'I’m telling you, he [Engelman] was caught with treif [non-kosher] packages, a goyishe [non-Jewish] company,' Gruman said. 'I did not do any detective work as I did in other stores. This was, you walked in, he opened up the refrigerator, you opened up the freezer, you pulled it out. It was no difficult clandestine work on my part.'

    "May said neither he nor Rabbi Avrohom Union, who has been the RCC’s rabbinic administrator since 1990, knew about the Los Alamitos incident prior to being informed about it by a reporter. And although May said he could understand why the RCC would allow Engelman to own and operate a kosher-certified market after being connected to another store that was caught with non-kosher products – his store was manned by a constant rabbinical supervisor, or mashgiach temidi, who had the only key to the shop — May still said that hearing about it was 'nauseating.'

    “'It’s hard to imagine that anyone would get two strikes,' May said, noting that there was little or no chance now that Engelman would have his certification reinstated by the RCC in the wake of the current scandal."

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  4. Recipients and PublicityApril 11, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    "Elliot Pasik said...Rabbi Avrohom Union, who has been the RCC’s rabbinic administrator since 1990"

    Rabbi Avrohom Union has faced criticism over the years for covering up for the alleged sexual molestation accusations against the Tendler rabbis in Los Angeles. union was also an ally of Leib Tropper and a beneficiary of the EJF's funds for making geirim. He is a tough customer and does not back down when accusations of wrongdoing strike the RCC he personally founded in LA years ago.

    It is Rabbi Union who must take the blame and step down and allow an impartial inquiry to take place (such as happened at the OU after the Lanner cover-up scandal) of how he has benefited from funding to give shady hechsherim for kashrus that have turned out to be worse than useless as in the current case with Doheny, taking money for cockamamie conversions from Tropper and EJF, and for threatening people with one-sided dinei Torah and cherems who come forth with sexual harassment allegations against the Tendlers in the Orthodox Los Angeles community.

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  5. For a further read & halachic discussion see the following

    http://yudelstake.blogspot.com/2013/04/doheny-scandal-guest-post.html
    http://yudelstake.blogspot.com/2013/04/doheny-deja-vu-who-is-at-fault.html

    Kosherize your utensils, unless you baught TEVAS

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  6. For a further read & real halachic discussion of the issues involved see the following:

    http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5418

    This author actually seems to have learned Yoreh De'ah siman kuf-yud - as opposed to whomever wrote the previous comments. Bashing Talmidei Chachamim seems to be easier than actually cracking open a Shulchan Aruch...

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